Keith Olbermann sounded insulted after Californians narrowly passed Proposition 8 last month. From his MSNBC platform, the always outspoken and openly liberal US commentator fired away on Nov 10 at voters who took away the right of gay couples to marry.
It wasn’t a revolutionary argument in Canadian terms. After all, same-sex marriage has been legal across Canada since the summer of 2005. But Olbermann is the loudest voice in a growing movement of liberal Americans — gay or straight — who have no objection to an expanded definition of marriage.
“I don’t have a personal investment in this: I’m not gay,” he reassured.
Anne S Wynne explains the flood of straight allies that have emerged after Prop 8 received the approval of more than five million Californians on Nov. 4. Wynne is the founder of Atticus Circle, an organization that encourages straight allies to support gay rights.
She suggests that before the election, gay rights — and the prospect that they could be revoked at the ballot box — were just not on the agendas even of potential straight allies.
“It hasn’t been on their radar screens, really, what this discrimination is all about. You can’t try to change something if you don’t know about it,” she says.
Wynne says Atticus Circle now has over 5,000 members, and they come from every state. There has been an explosion of interest since election night, she adds, and “fair-minded straight people” have come out in droves to support the ongoing backlash against Prop 8.
“I think when we all look back the passage of Prop 8 is going to be looked at as somewhat of a blessing, because I think there were a lot of people that took California for granted.
“And we all got a big wake-up call.”
Julia Wells, a member of the Stonewall Young Democrats — the gay wing of the party — and the politics editor of lesbiatopia.com, says that straight allies have always played an important role in the fight for same-sex marriage.
As examples of straight support, Wells points to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s brief legalization of gay marriage, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and lawyer Gloria Allred who represented gay couples in court, and even actors like Jack Black who have since come out against Prop 8.
But Wells notes that despite the high-profile support the No on 8 Campaign received, its leaders didn’t do an adequate job of reaching beyond traditional support bases.
“Religious allies, allies in the more rural areas that are less likely to be considered gay hotspots — a lot of those people were either confused, or don’t know many gay people and could very well turn into allies with very little effort,” she says. “I think there is an untapped wealth of potential straight allies.”